Toddler tantrums

React to toddler tantrums with a little understanding, consistency and patience and the ‘terrible twos’ could become the ‘tremendous twos’ before you know it! PHOEBE DOYLE seeks some expert advice. The word ‘tantrum’ can strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest parents. Toddlers are well-known, make that notorious, for their mood swings, their temperaments, their tantrums – hence the ‘terrible twos’ phenomena. Parenting and relationship coach, and mum-of-three, Ali McCloskey explains how she’s been there for parents to help with advice and encouragement: “As a coach, I’m often approached for advice from parents and carers who are desperately trying to cope with the dreaded toddler tantrums.”

Tiny tempers

“Many experts agree that there are four major triggers for toddler tantrums. By far the biggest is attention-seeking, which can happen anytime and anywhere. The second major cause is the sheer frustration that many small children feel at not being able to ‘do’ or communicate what they want or how they feel,” says Ali. This certainly could be the case with those children who are just on the cusp of learning to talk, desperately wanting to get their point across without quite having the linguistic skill to do so.

Ali has also seen how the ‘green-eyed monster’ aspect can play its part. “Jealously can also make a toddler lose his or her temper. This could be related to sibling or playmate envy, or the simple fact that a parent or carer is giving their attention to something or someone else. This can seem insane given the amount of attention you probably give them, but it helps to remember that, unlike older children, a small child is not rational at this age.

“The final major cause of toddler outbursts is a reaction to basic physical complaints such as hunger, tiredness or illness.” 

Avoid falling into the toddler trap

Ali says that one of the most common mistakes made in dealing with a toddler tantrum is over-reaction on the part of the parent. “In effect, some parents end up almost having their own tantrum or meltdown. Trying to reason with a small child logically can also back-fire; remember that they don’t have the ability yet to be rational and act purely on the emotions they’re feeling at the time.”

Experts agree that all behaviour should be dealt with in the moment, not at a later time. Ali says: “A very common reaction is to threaten to do something but not actually doing it there and then. A toddler will have no recollection of something that happened four or even two hours previously, so if you punish or attempt to deal with the situation later the lesson will fall on deaf ears. That said, simply giving in should also be avoided at all costs as, essentially, it teaches the child that what they did worked.”

Real mum’s advice

Mum-of-three, Katie Gunn from Co Wicklow says

“For me there’s no one solution, and I’ve found that what works for one of my children might not work for another. The bottom line is that whatever method you choose you have to be consistent. So, whether it’s rewarding a two-year-old for good behaviour, making a three-year-old have time out or taking a favourite toy away from a four-year-old, my advice is to choose your method and stick to it.”


maternity & infant

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